Corruption, mismanagement escalate Basra's water crisis, report says

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
ISTANBUL
Published 23.07.2019 00:21

A recent report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) showed that Iraq's Basra has continued to suffer from the inaccessibility of safe drinking water. Entitled "Basra is Thirsty" the 128-page report said the waterways were unable to bring safe water to the city. Last year, Basra witnessed street protests and mass outrage against the Iraqi government due to unclean drinking water. Thousands of people were taken to hospitals with similar symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea. Despite promises by the government there has been no major development in the water issue. More than 120,000 people were hospitalized.

The failure of the government to deliver safe water to the residents of Basra, a city located near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers has caused people to show their anger on the country's policies.

This year the HRW report indicated similar incidents would be repeated unless authorities take action. Saying that the 2018 crisis happened before in 2009 and 2015, the report said "after all these crises local and federal authorities failed to properly address the underlying causes or establish procedures to protect residents before a new crisis arose," and accused the Iraqi officials of "not adequately alerting residents regarding the poor water quality." It also underlined that the officials "still have not published any official investigations into the cause of the health crisis." The statistics about drinking water, issued by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment were not acceptable according to the report; "These (online weekly reports) frequently show the water quality index, which is based on a range of parameters including salinity levels, phosphates, pH levels and other markers, in parts of the rivers, falling below 50 points, well below the acceptable water quality rating."

The city is one of Iraq's oil-rich regions, but its residents live in dire conditions. The city lacks basic infrastructure, facilities, and its residents suffer from insufficient job opportunities. The oil refineries are run by foreign companies that employ foreigners. While Basra's refineries are making billions of dollars, its residents remain in unprecedented poverty.

The report said the main reasons for the fact that the water was not safe was due to salinity and contamination. The report attributed the salinity and contamination to the lack of enforcement, corruption, mismanagement and unsustainable domestic and agricultural water usage. "Authorities have severely mismanaged Iraq's water resources so that rivers and freshwater canals are not delivering adequate quantities of good quality water to the governorate's public treatment plants," the report said. In addition to the mistakes there was "corruption within local businesses and governmental institutions," which "has also prevented engineering solutions from being completed on time and the proper monitoring of the private water sector."

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